Before describing Sonoqualia, we went on to enumerate the remaining objectives of the project:
- Use of the concept of mental images, understood as inner representations created from our multimodal experiences that involve all the senses. Many studies, whose enumeration exceeds the possibilities of extension of this article, suggest that individuals with visual impairment and blindness can generate mental images using different sensory modalities. As occurs in sighted people, they are closely linked to memorized representations involved in learning and their autobiographical circumstances.
- To foster the concept of multimodal listening developed by Gunther Kress: an embodied practice that understands sound as a holistic experience. This refers to the ways in which sound is felt by means of vibration through the body and the different senses that are used during the Listening Act, in addition to the hearing sense.
- Use and consider sound as a different modality of cultural, experiential and artistic communication. Sound and acoustic experiences provide a more kinesthetic and proprioceptive experience of storytelling and knowledge creation than purely visual experiences.
- We developed Sonoqualia from the point of view of the Acoustemology . It concerns the term akoustos, which implies listening as knowledge into action, experiential knowledge with and through the audible.
- We will consider the sound material from an expanded perspective, that is to say, we will highlight the importance of language, poetry and voice, the sound of other species besides human, acoustic environments, technological mediation and sound movement, Paying attention to the agents, understood from the point of view of the Actor-network theory (ANT) of Bruno Latour. According to this theory, an actor acts, but the objects also have agency: they are actants. An actant puts the action in motion, i.e., leaves a trace. Objects as actants will be essential when producing sound material and making sense of it.
Why Sonoqualia? The name refers to the definition of qualia made by Etienne Soriau as "elemental qualitative atoms": characteristic essences of each sensory manifestation, generic and absolute qualities.
Soriau describes the seven basic and necessary qualia to identify an artistic manifestation: lines, volumes, colors, luminosity, movements, voices and music. In our case, the qualia corresponding to the voices and the music have been grouped as sound. The qualia are ineffable: they cannot be labeled by our shared language. Those who have not experienced a particular quale cannot understand what this experience is, as it constitutes the meaning of certain mental concepts, which are subjective.
In this sense, Thomas Nagel develops his thesis explained in "What is it like to be a bat", where it defends the subjective character of the experience, stating that only the bats can have that peculiar way which is "to be bat in the world".
All our approximations to other ways of being in the world, as to the "bat experience", are schematic. Referring to the material that gave rise to this project, we can say that the audio descriptions consulted seemed conceived and carried out by sighted people who imagine how something predominantly visual can be explained to a visually handicapped person, that is to say, they collect the viewpoint of a person who sees. But the question that must underlie is how it is the perception of a non-sight or a non-listener person, and not how we imagine ourselves, the sight people and listeners to reconstitute and "translate" it. We should not imagine the experience by subtracting fragments (subtraction of vision, subtraction of sound, subtraction of movement, etc....), but as a whole.
Sonoqualia starts with both an idea and one experience:
- the idea that sound can build space: ideas of space, spatial concepts, sensations and emotions linked to spatial perception, and
- the listening experiences of guides with audiodescriptions in a contemporary art museum.
According to our experience, the audiodescription places us before an intellectual enunciation that replaces the emotional expression that, in our opinion, is the artistic work. The project is also based on the concept of artistic experience, developed by John Dewey. In a social environment dominated by fragmentation, the work of art develops and accentuates the value of the things we enjoy every day, pursuing a continuity of aesthetic experience with the normal processes of life. Instead of trying to do some kind of translation, Sonoqualia proposes to develop an alternative experience that appeals to the listener's subjectivity, in principle visually impaired or blind, and to the use of sound materials from an aesthetic point of view. We also consider the idea, collected and developed by Oliver Sacks that people with visual impairment and blindness develop mental images (mental imagery) of varied typologies: from the most concrete, which reproduce or reconstruct experiences, to the more abstract, that have not been experienced directly, but can be used by the creative imagination and serve as models to investigate and experience reality.